A GROWING PATTERN! Character problem are only for Dems. The pattern is clear—and expanding: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, AUGUST 27, 2007
DEAN OF THE NATIONS LEAST COMPETENT COHORT: Nothing affects their preferred story-lines. No new information is relevant. And lets be clear: No other professional cohort could get away with this degree of incompetence.
We refer, of course, to David Broders column in Sundays Washington Post. Broder is, by group assessment, the dean of Washington pundits.
Background: On August 9, Michael Bloomberg told Dan Rather than no, he wont be running for president. The interview aired on HDTV this past Thursday night, but Bloombergs statements have been widely discussed since Rather disclosed what the mayor had said on the August 19 Chris Matthews Show. Indeed, the transcript of Bloombergs interview has been available since Friday, August 17. For the record, heres what Bloomberg told Rather:
RATHER (8/9/07): Well, let's get it out of the way. Are you running for president?Bloombergs statement was noted, at the start of last week, by news orgs around the world. Headline in the Xinhua General News Service: New York mayor smashes speculation about White House bid.
But when it comes to our least competent cohort, nothing affects their preferred story-lines. And the group is immune to new information. Yesterday, Broder mused, for the three thousandth time, about how marvelous it would be if Bloomberg and Chuck Hagel ran together. And the Pundit Dean didnt breathe a word about what Bloomberg had said to Dan Rather.
Bloomberg said he wasnt running. One week later, to all appearances, Broder still hadnt heard.
Did Broder know what Bloomberg had said? Its always possible that he didnt. For one thing, this is vacation time in DC—and Broders column had the stink of work which was turned in early. In short, its possible that Broder prepared this chestnut a week ago, then high-tailed it up to Lake Michigan. Under this theory, the Post itself just looks that much worse. Under this theory, the editor who waved Broders column into print hadnt heard what Bloomberg said either.
Were all accustomed to analyzing the press corps work in terms of bias. Thats an important type of discussion, but it sometimes obscures the astounding incompetence of this least-capable cohort. And lets be clear: The mainstream press can survive such blunders because they alone, among American professions, control what is written about themselves. In other professions, clownish incompetence gets discussed in the press. But when the press corps bumbles in its time-honored ways, nary a word is spoken.
Final question: What should we liberals and Democrats do when a group this inept this undermines our interests? As we said last week, libs and Dems are astoundingly bad at analyzing modern presspolitics. Well continues discussing that topic this week. Tomorrow, well return to Hardballs gruesome work about Michelle Obama.
How should our spokespersons play this game? If we dont develop better strategies, were going to lose next years election. Remember the rule which now drives our presspolitics: Character problems are only for Democrats! Sad to say: Well put our money on Rudy right now after watching the way we fight back.
REWRITING OBAMA, CONTINUED: Which of the major Democratic hopefuls has the best foreign policy instincts? On that, we have no particular view.
But how does the press corps rewrite events to produce the type of story it likes? In Saturdays Post, Alec MacGillis provided the latest example.
Zbigniew Brzezinski had endorsed Obama, during an interview with Al Hunt. As he reported Brzezinskis endorsement, MacGillis gave this account of the trivial flap which emerged from last months YouTube debate:
MACGILLIS (8/25/07): [Brzezinski] also defended Obama's position in his recent foreign policy tiff with Clinton, in which she called him "naive" for saying he would be willing to meet with the leaders of U.S. antagonists such as Iran and Venezuela. "What's the hang-up about negotiating with the Syrians or with the Iranians?" Brzezinski said. "What it in effect means," he said, is "that you only talk to people who agree with you."As Patrick Healy did last week (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/21/07), MacGillis rewrote what Obama had said in that utterly trivial tiff.
Did Clinton call Obama naive for saying he would be willing to meet with the leaders of U.S. antagonists such as Iran and Venezuela? Sorry—that just doesnt do it. In fact, Obama made a substantially different statement; he said hed be willing to meet with the leaders of the five countries in question in his first year in office, without preconditions. None of this was worth the focus it has received from the conflict-starved press. But its easy to report what Obama said. Increasingly, it seems that major reporters just dont want to do it.
For the record, MacGillis also took some liberties in his account of Brzezinskis statements. Was Brzezinski defend[ing] Obama's position—and criticizing Clinton—when he made the statements MacGillis quotes in the passage above? Wed have to say thats just not clear. Lets consider the full exchange from which MacGillis took his quotes.
Below, we see the relevant Q-and-A between Hunt and Brzezinski. In his question, Hunt seems to refer to the Obama-Clinton dispute—but he does so rather obliquely. In his reply, Brzezinski does criticize someone by name. But its Condoleezza Rice he criticizes, not Hillary Clinton:
HUNT (8/24/07) And how about the other argument that whether you—the issue of talking to bad guys, the Iranians, North Koreans, and Hugo Chavez? Do you believe that direct talks with unsavory characters rewards bad behavior or is just simply realpolitik?Was Brzezinski referring to Clinton here? Its quite unclear. After all, Clinton hasnt said that she would only talk to people who agree with [her]; she only said she wouldnt guarantee a first-year meeting, without preconditions, with leaders like Kim Jong-il. (Lets state the obvious—President Obama wont hold such meetings either.) But Brzezinski did criticize someone by name: Condi Rice, who is talking sheer nonsense. Unless you read the Post, that is—in which case, he was smacking down Clinton.
Here again, we see familiar conduct from our least professional professional cohort. A string of scribes have sanded the edges off Obamas statement at the YouTube debate. This is an utterly trivial tiff. But its easy to report what Obama said. Last week, Healy and MacGillis seemed to prefer a different approach.
Special report: Only Dems!
BE SURE TO READ EACH INSTALLMENT: In the culture of the modern press corps, only Dems can have character problems! Read each thrilling installment:
PART 1: Only Dems can have character problems. Reactions to Saint Rudy prove it. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/21/07.Only Dems can have character problems! In Part 4, we see the way this rule extends to all such problems.
PART 4—A GROWING PATTERN: Remember: In the culture of the modern press corps, only Dems can have character problem. This pattern has become increasingly clear in the past dozen years, but the current treatment of Candidate Giuliani is beginning to border on farce. In 1999 and 2000, the mainstream press corps had a fit about the embellishments of Candidate Gore—embellishments the press corps itself had made up! But Candidates Rudys real embellishments pass by with barely a comment.
Last week, we considered Giulianis groaning misstatements about his role as Ground Zero Hero—misstatements which the pundit corps have chosen to overlook. And then, on Saturday, it happened again; the New York Times ran another front-page report about the Republican hopefuls misstatements. But if history is a guide, pundits will ignore this latest groaner.
Lets make sure we understand the type of conduct which is A-OK—as long as Republicans do it.
Quick breakdown: When Giuliani became mayor in 1994, he inherited a $2.3 billion deficit from the outgoing mayor, David Dinkins. When he left office eight years later, he left a $4.8 billion deficit for his successor, Michael Bloomberg. Its hard to believe that a White House hopeful could turn that into a bragging point. But Giulianis campaign has done it! On the front page of Saturdays Times, Michael Cooper describes one of Rudys radio ads—and offers a mild rebuke:
COOPER (8/25/07): Rudolph W. Giuliani has been broadcasting radio advertisements in Iowa and other states far from the city he once led stating that as mayor of New York, he ''turned a $2.3 billion deficit into a multibillion dollar surplus.''In short, Giuliani ran surpluses for a time—then lapsed back into deficits. But Giuliani is running radio ads which tout his vast success in this area. In another bit of restrained understatement, the Times suggests that these radio ads are somewhat misleading.
Lets be clear: Cooper has done good reporting here—like his colleague, Mark Buettner, who reported the vast overstatements of our brilliant Ground Zero Hero (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/24/07). Whats at issue is the pundit corps silence about these matters—especially when we let our minds drift back to the treatment of Candidate Gore. Starting in March 1999, Gore was trashed as a liar—as a serial exaggerator—on the basis of three goony lies which the press corps itself had invented. Readers, Al Gore said he invented the Internet! For two solid years, the mainstream press corps beat loud drums, deeply troubled by Gores wild lying. Last year, the Posts Michael Grunwald finally copped: Al Gore never said he invented the Net! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/25/06.) But the Post and the Times had said different, for two solid years. In the process, they sent Bush to the White House.
Gore was trashed for lies he didnt commit. Today, the pundit corps is silent in the face of real overstatements. Explanation? Only Dems can have character problems! Its one of the corps deep beliefs.
Indeed, this pattern has emerged, quite clearly, over the past dozen years. Gore was turned into the worlds biggest liar—but Giulianis gross overstatements are ignored. But then, the pattern hardly stops there. Every type of character problem seems to be reserved for Dens only:
Item: Bill Clintons sex life is constantly flogged—but Giulianis weird sexual conduct, while serving as mayor, is being politely ignored.Question: Has anyone ever reinvented himself the way Romney has in the past year? By normal standards, the conduct is laughable. But on this weekends Russert program, the Posts Chris Cillizza took a quite different approach. In Cillizzas view, its to Romneys credit when he paints himself as a conservative—when he reinvents his most basic views. Watch as Cillizza, again and again, praises Romneys reinventing:
RUSSERT (8/25/07): With their official government positions as mayor of New York City and governor of Massachusetts, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney—is there any difference in their positions on abortion, gay rights, gun control, immigration, stem cell research? From their official governing positions?Romney is praised for his reinventions—its to his credit! Indeed, Romney hasnt reinvented himself. No, its just that he doesnt have a squeaky clean, pure white record on this.
If we consider the earlier trashing of Gore and Kerry, Cillizzas approach here is quite remarkable. But as weve noted in the past, Cillizza—a rising young media star—is a faithful slave to his cohorts dogmas. Indeed, after beating the bushes in ludicrous ways to prove that Gore was a reinventer, the pundit corps has been quite mild with the flips and reinventions of the GOP Three. In May, The Hills A. O. Stoddard nicely captured the way the press has approached this (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/3/07):
STODDARD (5/2/07): You know, I really think this is not a big deal. I think that [Romney] is entitled to his quirky tastes. I think that he is a habitual flip-flopper, and has religious conversions on everything that comes out of his mouth, and he changes his mind so much now that people dont even notice. He is on campaign finance reform right now. He is after everyone in the Washington political back-scratching class that wrote McCain-Feingold.In the spring of 2000, the press corps played the Total Fool, proving that Gore was involved in endless, troubling reinventions (link below). With Romney? We think Stoddard captured the attitude perfectly: He changes his mind so much now that people dont even notice.
For ourselves, wed put that a slightly different way. Within the culture of the modern press corps, only Dems can have character problems! By definition, only Dems can be flippers, or liars, or disturbing philanderers. In past campaigns, the mainstream press corps turned itself inside out, pretending that Gore and Kerry had character problems. But when Giuliani and Romney really do commit the relevant transactions, people dont even notice. Stoddard expressed the problem perfectly. Question: What should libs and Dems do?
When our pundits return from their hard-earned vacations, will they trash Rudys serial lying? If you think that will happen, youre living on Mars. Tomorrow: How we react.
TOMORROW—PART 5: To this day, many libs and Dems just cant seem to grasp the basics of modern presspolitics.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: In the spring of 2000, the press corps played the Total Fool, pretending that Gore was reinventing. No claim was too utterly stupid to cite. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/19/02, with links to previous work.